A young man, still in love with his self-destructive ex-girlfriend, agrees to join her on a trip to Cancun where he ends up meeting a local girl, forcing him to question everything he wants in life. This is Mike Gallant’s romantic dramedy The Duchess of Cancun.
A few weeks ago, we reviewed Mike Gallant’s Sci-fi short film Terra Beach. Looking back on that review, we gave Terra Beach the big 5 stars, and praised its special effects and world-building; it really was a memorable film. The Duchess of Cancun was made a few years before Terra Beach, and although it is not as spectacular, it still shows enough visual flair to confirm that Mike Gallant is a genuine talent and one of the best directors currently working on the independent circuit.
The script, written by Gallant and his lead actor Andrew Chapman, introduces us to one of the cutest but mixed-up movie couples in recent memory. Chris, played by Chapman, and Brooklyn (Megan Hughes-Jones) had been together for around four years before amicably splitting up. The movie begins with a sweet-meet-cute scene, where we learn they are high school sweethearts who are virtually perfect for each other – they laugh, talk, and make love so innocently and purely that we immediately see them as a real couple who are going to live happily ever after. Then the movie jumps forward six years and we see Chris now waking up alone in a single bed in Cancun, with no idea of where Brooklyn has gone.
After flashing back a few more weeks, we see Chris arrive home from work only to be surprised by Brooklyn on his doorstep. Even though they haven’t seen each other for 2 years, they relax straight back into each other’s company and Brooklyn asks Chris to go with her and her family on holiday to Cancun, just as friends. This sets up a really interesting premise that intrigues the viewer straight away, as it poses the age-old question, can a man and a woman truly be friends without sex getting in the way?
The visuals of a Mike Gallant production are usually top class, and that remains the case during The Duchess of Cancun – they are sumptuous. The cinematography by Tien Ta manages to capture the beauty of the Mexican resort in all long, medium, and close-up shots. The framing of each scene is particularly beautiful and highlights the cast who always seems to be surrounded by lots of lush greens, yellows, and whites. The colours seem to jump out of the screen as if they were on an oil painting, while the drone shots are always stunning to look at. According to IMDB, this is Tian Ta’s first and only cinematography credit, why, I have no idea because Ta shows some stunning artistry here.
Gallant’s flair for garnering realistic performances from his cast comes to the fore with each character feeling real and fully fleshed out, with Chapman and Hughes-Jones giving strong, believable performances. Hughes-Jones does some tremendous work garnering the audience’s sympathy for a character who is essentially a very selfish and spoilt little girl. The script manages to remain relevant and cutting, with only a few minor blips, a particular chance meeting at the end is more than a little contrived.
The Duchess of Cancun is a film that has a huge amount of heart and with a sweet centre, softening its much harder edges, it manages to pull at your heartstrings and lead you to shed a tear. I will be eagerly awaiting Mike Gallant’s next production because he is undoubtedly a filmmaker with a great future who improves with every piece of work.